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Clearly Pylyshyn objects, as many philosophers have before him, to the notion of inner mental pictures that are somehow called to mind and reperceived by the “mind's eye”. In his 1973 article he raised a number of objections to this notion, some of which have withstood criticism better than others, but the underlying worry was clearly that the inner-picture theory of imagery inevitably commits the homunculus fallacy: it implicitly relies on the assumption that there is a little man (or rather, something that is the functional equivalent of a full-fledged visual system, including eyes), or, at the very least, something with inexplicable mental powers, inside the head to reperceive, experience, and interpret the image. The broad functional architecture of Kosslyn's theory, in fact, closely parallels that of Descartes' account of imagery (see , and ), and, of course, Descartes notoriously relied upon aconscious homunculus, the immaterial soul, that is placed foreverbeyond the reach of natural science. Modern defenders of thepictorial/analog theory protest that they cannot have committed thehomunculus fallacy (let alone committed themselves to Cartesiandualism) because a computer model of the theory has been implemented,and they have outlined an account of how picture-likerepresentations, formed at an early stage of visual processing in thebrain, are subject to several more stages of neural processing beforethey give rise to visual knowledge and experience (Kosslyn, 1980,1994; Kosslyn, Thompson, & Ganis, 2002, 2006).
What is the Diffusion Hypothesis of image formation?
Matters became so hotly contested during the 1970s that some participants, most notably Anderson (1978) and Palmer (1975b, 1978), came to the conclusion that the disagreement was quite impossible to resolve by the methods of scientific psychology, or perhaps at all. Indeed, Anderson (1978) offered a formal proof purporting to show that the two main contending theories are empirically equivalent. Anderson's arguments in particular aroused much interest at the time,and were themselves vigorously disputed (Hayes-Roth, 1979; Pylyshyn, 1979b; Cohen, 1996) and defended (Anderson, 1979). However, the main debate continued, and it is probably fair to say that most observers have come to the conclusion that the empirical equivalence claimed byAnderson is ultimately not particularly interesting or important. It can probably be regarded as just a special case of the well known Duhem-Quine underdetermination of theory by evidence: many philosophers of science hold that any theory can be made to fit any evidence provided one is allowed freely to supplement the theory with arbitrary (and perhaps ad hoc, complex, and implausible) auxiliary hypotheses, which is essentially what Anderson was doing. Nevertheless, the fact that such claims could be seriously proposed and discussed is testament to just how acrimonious and intractable this debate about imagery had come to seem at the time, and how important it was to those involved. The very possibility of a science of cognition seemed to be under threat.